50) Enthroned! (Revelation 3:21-22)
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne,
as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”
No matter how many times I read this promise, I struggle to believe it. That’s not because I doubt its inspiration or accuracy. Jesus meant what he said and I embrace it. But to think of myself enthroned with Christ is simply more than I can fathom. Others of you may have a better grip on this than I do, but it strikes me as so utterly outlandish, not to mention presumptuous and prideful, that I blink at the words and have to pause simply to catch my breath.
This may be one of the reasons why Jesus concludes this letter, as he does each of the other six, with the exhortation to “hear” what he is saying to us through the Spirit. In other words, knowing the effect that such statements would have, as well as knowing our tendency toward incredulity, he had to go out of his way in every letter to reinforce the urgency of what he commands as well as the reality of what he promises.
It’s as if he takes hold of my shoulders, shaking me firmly but lovingly, and says, “Sam, did you hear what I just said? Read it again. Hear it again. Turn it over in your mind, again. Don’t resist the Spirit’s work of imprinting this indelibly on your soul. If you overcome the temptation to capitulate to the world’s invitation, if you resist the allure of lukewarm religiosity and invite me in to that spiritual room of greatest intimacy (Rev. 3:20), you will sit down with me on my throne!”
Perhaps this promise would rest more easily in my heart if it weren’t for the fact that Revelation 4-5 follow immediately on this concluding letter to the church at Laodicea. You see, when I pause to reflect on what Christ meant when he referred to his “throne”, a throne on which his people, together with him, will sit, I can’t help but be drawn into the majestic scene that follows in the subsequent two chapters.
What we see and hear and feel in Revelation 4-5 is the pinnacle of biblical revelation. There simply is no greater, more majestic, or breathtaking scene than that of the risen Lamb sitting on the throne, surrounded by adoring angels and odd creatures, with ear-popping peals of thunder and blinding bolts of lightning.
If my earlier discomfort was due to the seeming impropriety of sinners sitting on that throne, nothing is more proper or fitting or apropos than that Jesus should be there. Nothing makes more sense than that he should be the focus of all creation, whether of Elders falling down, mesmerized by his beauty, or strange animals singing endlessly of his holiness. He belongs on the throne! He alone is God! He has died and redeemed men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation!
By all means, let us sing:
“Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing, of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.”
Were ever more fitting words found on human lips? Yet again, we sing:
“Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.”
Yes, he is the Lord of Heaven (and earth) and is rightly “enthroned in worlds above.” But what, for heaven’s sake (if I may be permitted to use such words), are we doing there? There’s more!
“Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing,
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.”
And what, for heaven’s sake(!), will the twenty-four Elders think? What will be the reaction of the four living creatures, not to mention the myriads of angelic beings who surround the throne, pouring forth wave upon wave of endless praise? Will they not be shocked and scandalized to see sinners there? I would be!
One more time, we rightly sing:
“Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.” (George J. Elvey)
We must be very careful and theologically fastidious on this point. We are not enthroned with Christ because we are Christ, as if salvation entails the merging of our being with his in such a way that he is less than the Creator or that we are more than creatures. Our union with him is vital and glorious but he is always the one and only living Lord and we are redeemed sinners who depend on him not only now but for all eternity.
We are not enthroned with him because we will have been deified, as if we will have left behind our humanity and been transformed into divinity. We will forever be monotheists, affirming and worshiping only One God who lives eternally as Father, Son, and Spirit. We are not enthroned because we are God but because he is! Although we will be “made like him” (1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:21), gloriously devoid of all sinful impulses, our presence on his throne is a gift, not a right. We are there not by nature or deed but by grace alone, having been made co-heirs by him who alone is worthy of worship.
Having said all that, I’m still a bit incredulous when it comes to this promise in Revelation 3:21-22 (cf. Rev. 2:26-27). But at least I know why I’m enthroned with him, and why not. I’m there because he died for me and poured out the love of God into my heart through Spirit who was given to me (Romans 5:5). I’m there because of mercy, not merit. I’m there to share his rule, not usurp it. I’m there to exercise an authority that is rightfully his and derivatively mine.
I don’t expect ever fully to understand what this promise means or entails. Its shape is still uncertain to me. What it will feel like is yet foreign. Its plausibility confronts me like an insurmountable mountain peak. That Christ Jesus should ever make room within his reign for a scurrilous sinner like me is no doubt a theme that will occupy my thoughts and inquiries for all eternity. As for now, I don’t know what else to say but, “Thank you, Lord!”